What ever happened to show jackets?

When I first arrived in NYC in the early ’90s, if you were in a Broadway show or worked on a Broadway show, you got/bought a show jacket – which was usually an old-fashioned varsity jacket with the show logo embroidered on the back.

And if you didn’t have one . . . you wanted one . . . badly.  Really badly.

Show Jacket envy was everywhere.  Getting a jacket was like getting an Equity card, or an agent . . . sometimes it was even more valuable than the paycheck.

It was a symbol that you had earned your stripes.

Somewhere around the turn of the millenium, they fell out of fashion.  Nowadays, it’s rare to see someone sportin’ a show jacket on the street or the subway.  So what happened to them?  Was it deemed too tacky to promote what you were doing so blatantly?   (Seems odd in the era of self-promotion through social media.)   Are they just not cool anymore?

I gotta tell you . . . I miss them . . . for two reasons:

  1. All those jackets in the streets were little walking billboards that helped market shows . . . and Broadway.
  2. Having a badge of honor like a jacket made actors and the like seem like they were part of an exclusive club. And whenever there is an exclusive club, other people want in.

So I want ’em back.  Whatta ya say we start a movement to put the show jacket back in style, ok?

I’ll wear mine if you wear yours.


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  • Kym Meyer says:

    So I’m guessing I will be seeing Godspell jackets next time I’m in NYC?

  • D says:

    where did you get that picture!!! I want to see an underground sub-cluture of people who are obsessively collecting flop show jackets… That would be worth sporting.

  • Adam says:

    Count me in! I’ve been wearing an original Headbanger’s Ball jacket for over 20 years (people always offer to buy it from me), but I’ll switch.

  • Unfortunately, even with b/way salaries, they are very expensive for those who work at the theatre. If you can get them at a more cost effective rate it would help.
    In addition, polar fleece and like fabric have become more desirable than bulky “varsity” jackets. You should talk to dancers as they love to have items that keep them warm without the bulk.
    With airline luggage weight restrictions, it’s a hard item to justify packing on tour.
    Hope that helps.

  • avb says:

    We have show gear in the film industry and it’s something everyone seems to love and wear (mostly proudly).

  • I loved my LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS jacket from the Boston production — wish I had saved it. BRING ‘EM BACK!

  • I bought one with my name on it for my first Broadway show job on Tarzan. They took my money, then lost the jacket. It’s probably now buried with miles of rope and thousands of carabiners in some Disney warehouse in Jersey.

  • Howard Sherman says:

    I have a show jacket from the short-lived but wonderful OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD. I received it the day the show closed, and when I showed it off enthusiastically to a friend that day, he admired it and commented, “And already an antique, too.” I wore the jacket frequently over the next few years and, as it was mostly seen by people with no knowledge of the show, only the title itself, I got used to people walking by me and giving me the thumbs up or saying “Right on.” It surfaced American patriotism in the most unexpected way.

  • J.R. Graff says:

    They look like they’d be great for those NYC winters.

  • Arnie says:

    Does that mean we can expect to see Godspell Jackets?

  • Love your blog and I’m usually aboard with everything you say.
    Unfortunately, show jackets were just tacky.
    I have to draw the line somewhere!

  • Dean Roth says:

    I’ll wear one.

  • Vicki Morrison says:

    I think I’ll make up a few for a show I am writing!
    Love the idea!

  • Art Fidler says:

    Wow! Interesting. I had just assumed that if you worked on a show, you were given a jacket. I always envied people with those. On an early trip to NY, I asked around to see where I could buy one, but found out that only people on a show had them. Very impressive. I got a very definite buzz, walking along behind someone with a Broadway show jacket.
    I hope that the Godspell producers can buy one. I’ll be in!

  • Diane says:

    I’d be happy to wear a Godspell jacket, but it would have to be with the full logo (with Neil staring at the wall–love that) . Not only can cast & crew wear these, but there are plenty of people that would order them at the concession stand if given the opportunity. And I would have loved an Altar Boyz jacket! I still wear my Scarlet Pimpernel wool jacket and my Jekyll & Hyde denim jacket (BCEFA Flea Market finds). So yeah bring back those show jackets!!

  • I will definitely sport a Godspell jacket… I will join you in bringing them back, Ken!

  • Jay says:

    I don’t like the look of the traditional show jacket…. I don’t mind them making a comeback, but not the varsity jacket version. Not in 2011.
    I’m also the kind of guy who wants to blend in to a crowd, not stand out…. and whenever I see someone wearing a show jacket, I immediately try to figure out who they are and see if their name is embroidered on the front.
    Produce a show jacket… but have it available for the fans to buy. Their the ones who are going to give you the word-of-mouth you need. Let the actors tweet, facebook, etc – not get stalked on the streets by crazy fans.

  • They could be a different style than
    a varsity jacket.
    This got my image consultant brain going.
    Each show has it’s own style.
    One show might have a “Show Cape” and
    another a “Show 40s Fitted Jacket”
    (this could get expensive re fittings)
    and another a “Show Soldier’s Jacket”, etc. etc.
    They’d probably be more expensive than a Varsity Jacket,
    but maybe not.

  • Kristi R-C says:

    Tours still do! I’ve worn a polarfleece show jacket for ages. Just got one for Les Miz 25th that was made by A2Z.

    shows how they do it. Wonderful way to provide an opening for word-of-mouth. I’m surprised to hear that it’s not part of the regular ad budget for all shows.

  • Andrew Joy says:

    Great idea to let it be available to fans, (extra money) but make it a different color or a few things different. Then you still have the exclusive club feel, people can satisfy their envy a bit with a jacket of their own, and they still want the real deal.

  • Melissa says:

    I’m kind of sad I missed out on this classy showcase of pride. It reminds me of high school and how much hard work it took to letter in a sport and earn that coveted jacket.
    But, consider this if it isn’t too extreme – have fans gotten crazier? Whether at stage door or Broadway-related events or even attempting to follow them home? Maybe actors would rather anonymously go about their day outside the theater without drawing more attention to themselves. That aside, I’m still in favor of the return of The Show Jacket.

  • Marina Barry says:

    Show jackets not only are a billboard and give the cast and crew a feeling of togetherness how about all the jobs for the people who make the jackets? I hope the next round of jackets are made right here in the Big Apple! And let the tourists buy the T-shirts, fridge magnets and mugs.

  • Chris says:

    I’m with you, Ken. I have a very soft spot for the varsity show jacket as a tradition and a rite of passage. (I have one – from a production of Joseph…Dreamcoat. It’s my “winter coat” here in Florida.) I admit to feeling a bit ostentatious wearing it in NYC but not around Orlando. That jacket is the manifestation of my ascension into the realm of “cool kids” – I’m pretty sure there’s something sub-psychological going on there, wherein I equate getting that jacket with finally being as good as the jocks in high school. 😀
    I wonder if one reason they disappeared is that the gypsies started to get a closet full of them, and they would end up at consignment shops around the city, so producers (or the cast and crew) thought “What do I *need* that can have a show logo?”

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    I remember show jackets very well. I was SO jealoous of the people who had them. Absolutely they should be brought back. I’ll remember that when my show gets produced next year…(the power of positive thinking.)

  • Esther says:

    I met David Hyde Pierce at the stage door after La Bete last fall and I told him how much I loved Curtains – turns out he was wearing his Curtains show jacket! I thought it was kind of cool.

  • Lonnie Cooper says:

    My first was a satin number for a tour of My Fair Lady. We use them on the USO Tours (usually for the high profile tours) and everybody who works for us wears shorts, jackets, hats, ect with the logo emblazoned thereon.

  • lightman@yahoo.com says:

    i always thought the reason the jackets went away was that producers used to give them away. That stopped in the early 2000s, so did the fad…

  • I think they started out as cast and crew swag, but they became Merch. IIRC, correctly as merch, they became less popular with the companies.
    I had forgotten the kind of original ’80’sesque satin jackets. I did recall the heavier, wool baseball style. I have to assume the latter are more expensive to produce, and the former still speak to the disco era.
    I would try to think of a way to tie the garb to the show. The Disco Jacket might be right for some shows, maybe silk or washed silk for others. I might go denim for Godspell.

  • Malini says:

    How did you get a Headbanger’s Ball jacket?! I am now doubly jealous.

  • Malini says:

    I am still have show jacket envy. You are so right about getting one was almost better than an Equity card! Whenever I see someone wearing one, especially outside of our blessed patch of Manhattan, I ask if I can touch it.
    I want a Godspell Jacket yesterday!

  • Matthew says:

    I think once you’ve done 2 or 3 Broadway shows the novelty of a show jacket wears off. Those guys from Local One would have no room for anything in their closet but show jackets. I think the people over at Phantom still wear theirs, cuz they’re still still on show number 1.

  • Michael Pizzi says:

    I should have bought my CARRIE show jacket when I knew it would flop ! How about this Ken:
    1. For every ticket purchased you can redeem your stub for 25% off a show jacket in the Godspell lobby (every ticket – as in TDF, full price etc. 🙂
    2. What if YOU had 20 people wear Godspell show jackets in and around the TKTS booth regularly starting – well – now? That gets the word out about the show AND people are curious about where they too can get that show jacket so a double marketing scheme !
    Just a thought – and if you use the idea, can I get a show jacket signed by you !?

  • I love show jackets! Have one from a soap opera I did back in the 80’s. Also a fan of baseball caps.

  • ECP says:

    I’ve skimmed as many comments as possible not wanting to be redundant. So many good reactions. Perhaps they became too expensive to produce? Bring ’em back! Get the NYC fashion/design industry involved to produce seasonal wearables. (Project Runway challenge?) Somehow distinguish outerwear for cast and crew from fans. Better than a sandwichboard!

  • Bryan David says:

    I started many a conversation with Actors/Musicians/Stage Managers wearing a ‘Show-Jacket.’. It WAS a way of identifying ‘Theater-Folk’ from the rest of the crowd. Ah “The Roar of the Greasepaint the Smell of the Crowd” indeed! When produced, the musical:
    “Whitechapel” ©
    The Life & Times
    ‘Jack The Ripper’
    A Musical Love Story! ™
    Will have ‘Show-Jackets’ if I have to buy them for every member of the troupe myself!!!!!
    (Click on attached link below)

  • Patty Spelman says:

    I agree – let’s bring back show jackets. I’ve only seen one here in Las Vegas. Michael Pointek, from the cast of Mamma Mia here, wore a show jacket one night after that show. It was from EFX–a show he had been in here with Michael Crawford in the mid 90’s. It was a cool jacket!

  • terry h says:

    I guess my vote would be no. Maybe the film industry is different than Broadway, but I don’t know anyone who wears movie/tv show garb, unless they’re newer to the biz and it’s still a novelty to get a free t-shirt or cap. IMHO, I’ve always found it kind of tacky–even with the “better” gifts as you go higher up the production chain; i.e., a beautiiful leather Tumi duffel bag my husband received. He was proud to work on the show, loved the cast and crew, but never used this no-doubt expensive item. If they are for-purchase, fine, but as give-aways, no. The moeny should be used for something that is not going straight to Goodwill. If they are for-purchase, fine, but as give-aways the money should be used in a better way.

  • Gary says:

    I have a “Cabaret” broadway revival show jacket that my partner got me when he was in the show. It is black denim with an amazing reproduction of the MC’s eyes peering through the slot in the door with the Cabaret lettering below it, on the back of the jacket. The design is incredible!(Silkscreen on leather). I can’t tell you how often I was stopped on the street from someone walking behind me.
    Yes Ken, bring back the jackets! They don’t have to be heavy and bulky.

  • Carl says:

    I once had a “Chicago City Limits” show jacket that was stolen from the back of a chair. From then on, like Loch Ness monster sightings, friends would tell tales of seeing a homeless man wearing the jacket in various locales around Manhattan.

  • I loved my show jackets too (I have three)! The difference in my case is that I’m not a Broadway actor, and it just seemed like wearing a show jacket after your show closed was a little like being out of fashion. Wearing a current show jacket was always the must… which of course meant that you had to be in a current show that was putting out jackets! LOL! I went Paris to be in a show about ten years after I performed in the French premiere of “Les Miserables” in Montreal… I couldn’t resist… that ten-year-old show jacket was a cool attention-grabber and started many interesting conversations! Show jackets, even our “vintage” ones, rock!

  • Eliana says:

    I have a show jacket from Urban Cowboy… I would totally wear it, except its like 2 sizes too big on me. I bought it at a Broadway flea market a few years ago. Show Jackets should totally make a comeback. They are awesome and fun! Let’s re-start the trend!

  • I can’t believe it. A friend and I were just talking about the show jackets. I said I had one that I’m not wearing now. We talked about how they just don’t seem to be worn anymore. Yes, let’s get out there and wear them. Otherwise, we are going to find them all being sold at the fair in Shubert Alley?!? Alas. Let’s wear them!!!

  • John West says:

    I liked them, get a campaign going to bring them back. I don’t think they went out of fashion, I guess they gradually stopped making them until they were forgotten about. I’m all for there return.

  • twin.a@juno.com says:

    Love the idea – I just had to get a varsity jacket custom-made with the Billy Elliot colors and logo as a gift for a 13 year-old who was absolutely OBSESSESED with the show! Would have been so much easier to just buy off the rack – plus – all her friends would be wearing them!

  • Im Glad to have been part of bringing show Jackets back! My company wwww.varsityjackets09.com Just made some jackets for GodSpell We offer 24/7 service to any company school or Individual. (702) 510-9942
    No Minimums no set up fees abd amazing quality and prices

  • paul galbraith says:

    I have searched hi and lo to find a “On the Twentieth Century” musical cast jacket. Searched ebay and even went to Iown and placed an ad..hence nothing but I keep looking

  • Stephen Buckle says:

    “I’ll wear mine if you wear yours.” That reminds me of a Valentine message I received many years ago – ‘if you shampoo mine, I’ll shampoo yours!” Never did find out the sender, sadly…

  • Tony Finstrom says:

    I think they got to be too expensive! I still wear the hell out of my “Bay Street Theatre” jacket, which isn’t really a “show” jacket, but has the same cache, I think (with a Tony Walton logo design on the back.) And the same lady who made most of those show jackets — was her name “Nila?” — made them for us at Bay Street.

  • Barry Burns says:

    I love a show jacket! It’s my privilege to say that I was on the scene in Toronto during the musical theatre heydays of the late ’80s throughout the ’90’s. I stage managed on Phantom and Show Boat for Livent. Though I don’t wear them anymore I do have a wonderful, and growing, collection of mostly Livent Canada show Jackets. I just scored a cool black Lee denim example from Show Boat. My goal is to collect as many Toronto and Canadian tour jackets. If anyone out there sees this and has a jewell to offer please let me know. “Les Miz”, “Miss Saigon”, “Crazy for You” anything else? I’d love to hear from you.

  • Doris Sirlin says:

    Does anyone have a black fleece zippered jacket size M from the show Hand to God that they want to sell? I’d be interested.. Thanks.

  • Scott Westmoreland says:

    Oh man, I loved wearing my show jackets! I have several, just collecting dust in the closet. I wore the heck out of them when I was a performer, back in the 80’s and 90’s. I have some satin ones (uh, yeah, those probably won’t make it back out on the street). I have a few denim, and a “varsity” style with leather sleeves from my National Tour of “Starlight Express” in 1990-91. I left the biz by 2000…sad to hear they are a thing of the past. I vote to bring them back! Today’s thespians deserve to wear their work proudly!

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